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In the summer of 2018, the Greenland Caves Project and Top to Top Global Climate Expedition sailed from Iceland to Greenland. Their aim was to visit the Wegener Halvø peninsula of EAst GREenland, explore the region for its caves, map and document their findings, collect geological samples for climate-change research, and undertake outreach activities with indigenous communities. By sailing, EAGRE 18 was able to reduce its carbon footprint and undertake an old-style exploratory adventure.
Why is this important?
The Arctic region is changing rapidly, the consequences of which will be felt worldwide. Importantly, we need to know how it will continue to change in the future and one way to achieve this is to learn from periods of past climate change. Greenland has many excellent climate records that have been drilled from the ice sheet, but unfortunately, records from the coast and records that cover past warm periods are extremely sparse.
Our mission and goals
Our mission was to address this knowledge gap by constructing records of climate and environmental change from sediments in caves on the Wegener Halvø peninsula.
Our goals were ambitious: (1) Search the peninsula for caves, and explore, map, document and photograph them where they are found. (2) Collect sediment samples from the caves. (3) Construct records of climate and environmental change. (4) Interpret the records for climate information. (5) Engage the public throughout the project on issues of climate change, science, exploration and adventure. (6) Engage indigenous communities in outdoor activities.
Our plan to achieve this
In the summer of 2018, we sailed from Ólafsfjörður, Iceland to Ittoqqortoormiit, Greenland in Pachamama, a journey that took two days. From there we waited for the sea ice to break further north, but after monitoring this for several months and comparing it to previous years, we were convinced that it would not break in time for us to continue sailing to Wegener Halvø. We moved to plan B. Pachamama dropped us off at Constable Point and from there we took a helicopter for the final part. We spent several days searching the peninsula and targetting potential cave entrances, the locations and photographs of which had been provided to us by a geologist previously working in the area. Unfortunately, the leads turned out to be rock shelters or shadows, thus no caves were found on this expedition. It is a shame as we had huge plans for analysis of the samples in the Austrian Core Facility of the University of Innsbruck by bachelor and master students over the following year. This was a high risk/high potential project that didn’t pay off this time. To read our preliminary expedition report, please visit here.
The route we took
The partnership between Greenland Caves and Top to Top allowed the EAGRE 18 expedition to sail to from Iceland to Greenland and reduce its carbon footprint.
Greenland Caves Project
Dr. Gina Moseley (University of Innsbruck), Robbie Shone (National Geographic photographer), and Chris Blakeley (rope-access expert, Petzl) have been exploring caves all over the world for nearly 20 years. In 2015, they expanded their cave exploration to Northeast Greenland where they embarked on the first cave-based climate research expedition in the High Arctic. The project was highly successful and generated a lot of publicity on various National Geographic outlets, BBC radio, and other worldwide media. For further information about our previous project, please see our 2015 pages or our short film.
Top to Top Global Climate Expedition
Swiss climatologist and mountain guide Dario Schwoerer, his wife Sabine, and their family of six children, have spent the last 18 years sailing around the globe conducting field-based research activities, educating local inhabitants, and sharing examples of innovative solutions to protect, preserve and conserve our planet. During this time they have sailed 106,500 nautical miles, cleaned up 55 tons of garbage, and given presentations to over 120,000 school children. The whole family will be joining the expedition, and Greenland Caves is very much looking forward to spending time with these great people.
As with all major projects and adventures, none of this would be possible without the very generous support of many people and organisations. Once again, Clive Johnson of Polarsphere and CASP supported our logistics. We also received financial support from the University of Innsbruck, Petzl Foundation, Mount Everest Foundation, British Cave Research Association, Transglobe Expedition Trust, Captain Scott Society, and Ghar Parau Foundation. Thanks to all of you for making this possible.